What Do I Do About Not Getting Raise and Bonus?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about pay:

I came to this department when it was first created with no clear rules or guidance. I was the first employee there. As the first and only employee, I learned everything from scratch and had to train others. After a few months working under my boss, he asked me for recommendation of anyone to fill an open position (same as mine.I recommended my friend back in college. We weren’t close friends, but I knew she was capable and hard working. I got her a job. Obviously, my length of employment is longer than her. We are closer friends/coworkers now, more than ever.

However, the problem arrived when my boss seemed to give my friend more tasks while I have nothing to do. I asked him many times if I’d made a mistake or if I need to improve. He said everything was fine but the problem persisted until I couldn’t take it any longer and I confronted him. He said he would be more sensitive in distributing workloads. I didn’t question him or anything else afterward. Then came the year-end performance review and the raise. He told each of us (there are 2 of us under him doing identical tasks at identical levels) that we’re getting 4% increase this year.

When the official letter came, I only got 2%. I was disappointed, so I told my friend it was sad that “This is the lowest increase I’ve ever got.” She seemed to be happy with her raise. She said it looked normal to her. Then I found out she got 4%, and I got 2%. I didn’t say anything about it even though I was really mad. Our job is internal auditor. We just helped the department pass a major external audit so everyone was getting a bonus. Again, my friend expected everyone would be getting the same bonus. As my friend and I were talking she opened the letter she received and was shocked at the amount she was getting, so she showed me the letter.

I opened my letter and found out once again that I got a lower bonus than her. However, this does get me boiling mad this time.During the period of the audit, I came in every single Saturday while she missed two. I did three quarters of the audits and she did one. How is it possible that she received the higher bonus than me.I honestly think my boss favors her more. I wouldn’t mind if we were getting the same bonus, but definitely not less. What should I do in this case since the bonus and increase are supposed to be confidential? None of us intended to break the rules. It was just an accident that I found out.

Signed, Frustrated, Hurt and Angry

Dear Frustrated, Hurt and Angry:

I can imagine that you would feel bewildered and angry, especially when you had asked about problems and been told there weren’t any. It could be that your boss is being unfair and biased in favor of the other employee. Or, he could feel that he is being completely fair, based on the requirements he has established in his mind for who receives bonuses and raises.You have a good opening for talking to him about your last raise, since he had said it was going to be 4% and it was 2%. Perhaps you can combine that with this recent bonus.

You could say, “I was really frustrated about the raise, when it was lower than I expected, but now this bonus is lower than I expected too. I had a leadership role on that project and took the initiative to be here every Saturday, even when I was here alone working on it. I thought for sure I would receive a higher bonus than I did. Could you and I please talk about this and how you feel about my work?”That way you’re not saying that you know you received a lower bonus that someone else, only that you feel you should have received more.

Your goal is to find out what your boss would consider good enough work to merit the raise and bonus. Maybe you could ask him using this format: What does he want you to do more of? Less of? What does he want you to keep exactly the same? What does he not want you to do ever again? Or, you could ask him what knowledge or skills would allow you to merit a high raise and bonus.You may also want to talk to your HR section and use the same idea about asking what it would take to receive a higher raise. You could say you were expecting something more and wonder if there is an explanation. They’ll probably tell you to talk to your boss about it….which you can do, and tell him HR told you to ask him about the raise.If there are any written guidelines for bonuses or raises get those and use them to self-evaluate, then share your thoughts about them with your boss, if you believe they show you merited more.

Sadly, you probably won’t be able to get a change to your raise or bonus now, but at least you might be able to get an answer to your questions. Your boss has had to justify raises and bonuses to someone and he has apparently been able to provide a rational explanation for the differences. He probably would like to avoid talking about it with you, because he doesn’t feel comfortable discussing it, but, if you can show him that you are focused on finding how why, not making a complaint, that might help. I wish there was a magical solution to this situation, but of course, there isn’t. Probably in your company there are many stories just like yours. If you like your work and it is a positive experience otherwise, you will probably find you will be better off to stay and keep asking for for raises and bonuses to reflect the level of work you provide. Next time, consider not waiting to find out what you’re getting. Instead, talk to your boss well in advance to ask what you can be doing to deserve the highest amount possible. That way at least you will remind him of your expectations–which might also encourage him to talk to you if there are problems.Best wishes with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.